A Hole In The Heart
HIGH Silly, amusing first impressions followed by surprising depth.
LOW Missing some diary entries because hitting under par is too frustrating.
WTF Hipster Pubes.
Experiences like Golf Club Wasteland are what I live for as a critic.
At first glance, it seems like a goofy indie distraction – a man in a spacesuit plays golf on a course created from the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Earth. It’s the perfect setup for a set of ‘impossible’ holes, taking wacky putt-putt to the next level via the physics-defying magic of videogames.
…But then the soundtrack kicks in, and it suggests something more.
A DJ broadcasting from Mars in his best ASMR voice drops breadcrumbs about living in sealed domes while humanity struggles with depression and oppression millions of miles away. Catchy ‘oldies’ feature lyrics written about a now-dead world that failed to deal with its problems. The pictures being painted in my head of a people in distress reaching for the stars was great seasoning for the gameplay.
The controls are as simple as can be — aim with the left stick, hit the ball with X. Each hole offers a wild new challenge, like shooting for a green suspended in midair or keeping my ball away from underground toxic waste. Anyone looking for a realistic experience is obviously barking up the wrong tree, but I loved seeing how the corpse of a city was repurposed into entertainment. Even better? In the story mode, players can take as many strokes as they like without pressure. It’s a chill, relaxing endeavor made even more rewarding by the extra depth of a slowly-unfolding narrative.
I don’t want to spoil the plot because Golf Club Wasteland is such a brief experience, but there’s a lot more story than one might expect. Little bits get unlocked after finishing each hole at par or under, and after completing the entire course of 34 holes, the largest chunk of storyelling drops to tie it all together. It’s clever, heartfelt, and it recontextualized everything I’d just done in the best way.
As a games critic for more than 20 years, I play a lot of titles. For me, the best ones are those that surprise me or subvert my expectations – titles that find a new angle, or offer something that I haven’t quite seen before. Golf Club Wasteland managed all of that, and left me with a few things to think about afterwards, to boot.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Demagog and published by Untold Tales. It is currently available on PC, PS, XB and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately three hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Alcohol Reference. While the gameplay is definitely appropriate for all ages, the story takes a turn and feels better-suited for a teen-and-up audience. There’s no salty language or anything explicit… the feels just get kinda heavy.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options, although there are some options for adjusting the visuals.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The audio tracks are subtitled, and the subtitles can be resized/altered. No audio cues are needed for successful gameplay. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
bradgallaway a t gmail dot com